Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Charter school testimony — this time Staten Island

See this Ednotes post for more on this hearing.

The following is the testimony of long-time educator Loretta Prisco at the Charter School hearing in Staten Island last night.

I don't think there were any formal documents such as this submitted in the Charter School hearing I attended last week in District 4 (see our previous post).

But one thing is clear: If this documentation is going to made public, we're going to have to do it ourselves, and by every means possible.

Loretta Prisco
30 Westbury Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10301
Public Hearing – Charter Schools
August 3, 2009

I am a North Shore resident, the parent of two very successful, adult daughters who graduated Title 1 schools here on the North Shore. More recently, as an adjunct from CSI, I had students placed in PS 16 for field placement and visited regularly for 7 semesters. There are no finer teachers in this system.

We don’t need a charter school on Staten Island, nor do many members of this community want one. But this is not about what the community wants or needs. We know from the practice of the DOE all over the city – you will forge ahead – above the voices of the communities, CECs, and the affected schools.

How can we be asked to offer comment on these schools without being given the plans prior to public hearings? Why is this hearing sprung on us in the middle of the summer? And without complete information? How can you hold a hearing without directly involving the traditional public schools that will be affected by these charters? Aren’t they still your schools? Are you writing them off? And their students?

Since these charters will happen, though in vain, we ask for certain things to be in place.
1. Unlike existing charters, these charters should have the representation of children with special needs and ELL children – especially if a charter is to be named after Barak Obama and any school preparing children for a “new world”.

2. While spending public tax dollars, charters do not answer to the tax payers. They only answer to their Board of Directors. Charters do not have a mechanism for parent, staff or community decision making. Any charter in this community should involve the community, in its planning and with its oversight.

3. Charters that are for profit serve their shareholders, and those that are not for profit serve their funders. Neither serve their students. In these schools, children’s interests should be served before the interests of shareholders or dictates of funders.

4. Charters are systematically invading our public schools and pushing our traditional schools out of their own buildings, despite their promises of moving out. The schools should not, now or ever, be shoved into our overcrowded schools.

5. Charters counsel out students who are not performing or are discipline problems and return them to our traditional public schools. Children who are accepted into these charters should stay in them.

6. Charters increasingly, have been reported for corruption, incredibly high salaries, and theft of service, while demanding that they not be audited. These charter school salaries should be commensurate with the UFT and CSA contracts, and be audited by the Public Advocate.

7. Charters are creating a two tier system – separate but not equal schools as greater corporate dollars are pumped in to initially capture the student market. You must provide the same class size and resources to the affected schools as you are providing to these charters.

8. Charters cream the highest achieving students off the top. The creaming takes place in recruitment of students, not in the lottery. There must be a system in place that prevents these nefarious practices.
I ask that the CEC allow for public comment after all plans for the school are released, the affected schools and community be properly notified, and community members have returned from public school.

Affiliations: Parents Action Committee for Education (PACE), Independent Community of Educators (ICE), Coalition for Public Education (CPE)

— jw

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